PM re­futes Iran claims he of­fered to me­di­ate with Saudi Ara­bia

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON -

BEIRUT: Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri has strongly re­jected claims by Ira­nian Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei’s in­ter­na­tional af­fairs ad­vi­sor Ali Ak­bar Ve­lay­ati that Hariri of­fered to “me­di­ate” in the on­go­ing dis­pute be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia.

Af­ter Hariri said in a TV in­ter­view Sun­day night that he had ex­plic­itly asked Ve­lay­ati to stop Iran’s med­dling in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing in Beirut, Ve­lay­ati re­sponded Tues­day by la­bel­ing Hariri’s claims as “just Saudi dic­ta­tions.”

The Ira­nian rep­re­sen­ta­tive said, “The Saudis are not ready for Le­banon to be in a peace­ful and sta­ble state, and [for there to be] friend­ship be­tween the Ira­nian and Le­banese peo­ple.”

“Such a con­ver­sa­tion did not even hap­pen and [our talk] was not sharp, nor full of threats and chal­lenges,” he added, claim­ing Hariri “wanted to me­di­ate be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia and we wel­comed [this].”

Ve­lay­ati also said that Tehran hoped Hariri would re­turn to Le­banon and con­tinue as prime min­is­ter “if Le­banese law al­lows.”

The two met in Beirut on Nov. 3, the day be­fore Hariri an­nounced his shock res­ig­na­tion from the Saudi cap­i­tal Riyadh. In Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion speech, he blasted Ira­nian in­ter­fer­ence in the re­gion, and in Le­banon through Hezbol­lah.

How­ever, Ve­lay­ati’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the meet­ing was rapidly dis­missed by Hariri’s press of­fice later Tues­day. A state­ment re­ported that “Hariri did not of­fer any me­di­a­tion be­tween any coun­tries; rather, he told [Ve­lay­ati] that Iran should halt its in­ter­ven­tion in Ye­men as a pre­con­di­tion to any im­prove­ment in its re­la­tions with Saudi Ara­bia.”

The state­ment un­der­scored that, dur­ing the meet­ing, when Ve­lay­ati sug­gested that the is­sue of the Ye­men cri­sis would be a good start­ing point for di­a­logue, he re­sponded “No, Ye­men comes be­fore the di­a­logue. I think that solv­ing the prob­lem in Ye­men is the only way to start any di­a­logue be­tween you and the kingdom.”

The state­ment clar­i­fied that this was Hariri’s per­sonal opin­ion, not an of­fi­cial state po­si­tion. – The Daily Star

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